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Cigarette smoke increases cell vulnerability to Coronavirus

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Exposure to cigarette smoke makes airway cells more vulnerable to infection with the new coronavirus, UCLA researchers found.

They obtained airway-lining cells from five individuals without COVID-19 and exposed some of the cells to cigarette smoke in test tubes.

Then they exposed all the cells to the coronavirus. Compared to cells not exposed to the smoke, smoke-exposed cells were two- or even three-times more likely to become infected with the virus, the researchers reported on Tuesday in Cell Stem Cell.

Analysis of individual airway cells showed the cigarette smoke reduced the immune response to the virus.

“If you think of the airways like the high walls that protect a castle, smoking cigarettes is like creating holes in these walls,” coauthor Brigitte Gomperts told Reuters.

“Smoking reduces the natural defenses and this allows the virus to enter and take over the cells.


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Covid 19: Study finds antibodies in 7% of Pakistanis

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The second round of a coronavirus prevalence study has confirmed that 7 percent of residents of Pakistan have developed antibodies for the virus.

The prevalence study was carried out to determine how many people in Pakistan have developed antibodies after exposure to the virus, said health ministry spokesperson.

The second round of study was conducted by the health services academy in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 10 districts of the country.

Antibodies are blood proteins produced by the immune system to fight foreign invaders like viruses, and may help to ward off future attacks by those same invaders.

According to the results of the study, people who are infected with coronavirus but show no symptoms probably account for most virus transmission. The researchers found that coronavirus rising rapidly in urban areas as compared to rural areas of the country.

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan recorded fresh 2,954 COVID-19 cases and 48 deaths due to the virus in the last 24 hours.

In the past 24 hours, 48 more people succumbed to the disease, taking the death toll to 7,744. 1,389 patients have recovered from the virus during the last 24 hours and 1,751 patients are in critical condition.

On Nov 20, it emerged that the COVID-19 vaccine undergoing the third phase of a clinical trial in Pakistan has shown promising results.

It further emerged that the vaccine also proved useful for the patients who were shifted on the ventilator as 60 percent of them recovered after its dose.


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Pakistanis join final trials for China-made coronavirus vaccine

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Scores of volunteers from across Pakistan are flocking to research hospitals to join the final-stage clinical trials of a Chinese-made vaccine for coronavirus.

It is the first time Pakistan has participated in such a trial, which comes amid a string of positive vaccine announcements by Western pharmaceutical companies this month.

The vaccine is being developed by CanSinoBio and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology China.

“I have volunteered myself for a noble cause that will help humanity,” said a volunteer at Islamabad’s Shifa hospital, where hundreds of participants are being paid about $50 for their trouble.

Others should “step forward and take part in this noble cause which will save lives,” he added.

For years, China has focused much of its attention in Pakistan on mammoth development projects, bankrolling the construction of roads, power plants and a strategic port.

Moderna Inc’s MRNA.O: Can the new coronavirus vaccine be stored in ordinary refrigerators?

Beijing has now tapped one of its closest allies to participate in the vaccine trials, despite Pakistan’s chequered history with inoculation campaigns.

“We hope to have some findings ready about the accuracy and efficacy of the vaccine in two to three months,” Ejaz Ahmad Khan, the principal researcher overseeing the trial in Pakistan, told AFP.

Officials said Pakistan has already inoculated about 7,000 of the 10,000 participants expected to receive a jab.

The trials come with intensive care wards across the country nearing capacity as a second, deadlier wave of the coronavirus spreads and officials struggle to counter public indifference to the pandemic.

The country has confirmed more than 382,000 cases including over 7,800 deaths since the virus arrived in late February.

Less than a year after the coronavirus that has claimed 1.4 million lives began spreading across the globe, a number of highly promising COVID-19 vaccines are on the cusp of release.

Four separate drug makers have recently announced that their vaccines are effective for most people.

Due to lingering suspicions over vaccines, Pakistan is one of just two countries where polio continues to spread, sparking fears that a new drive to inoculate the population against the coronavirus will fail.

The Chinese vaccine is also undergoing phase 3 trials — or large-scale testing on humans — in several other nations including China, Russia, Chile, Argentina and Saudi Arabia.


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Will COVID-19 vaccines protect us? Does efficacy equal effectiveness?

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The frontrunners in the COVID-19 vaccine race have emerged with different success rates for their shots in clinical trials, but what does that mean for the global fight against the pandemic?

U.S. drugmakers Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna have each said their coronavirus vaccines have an efficacy rate of around 95% and a Russian project touted 92% efficacy for its Sputnik V vaccine.

Britain’s AstraZeneca announced an average efficacy rate of 70%, still well above the 50% rate that U.S. regulators have said they want to see before approving a COVID-19 vaccine for use.

WHAT ARE EFFICACY NUMBERS?

If a vaccine has an efficacy of, say, 80%, it means that if 100 people who have not previously been infected by the coronavirus are given the vaccine, on average 80 of them will not get the disease that the virus causes: COVID-19. These rates relate to vaccines administered and monitored in controlled circumstances, such as clinical trials.

DOES THAT MEAN AN INDIVIDUAL’S PROTECTION LEVEL IS THE SAME?

No. A person immunised with a vaccine that has, say, 80% efficacy is very likely to be protected from getting the disease with symptoms, especially severe ones.

They are also very likely to be protected from asymptomatic disease – but this, depending on the vaccine, may be less certain.

Even with 95% efficacy, there is no absolute guarantee of protection for any particular individual.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN IN THE REAL WORLD?

There is a difference between efficacy rates obtained in clinical trials and effectiveness – the real-world protection rate of a vaccine when it is rolled out.

“Efficacy says: ‘Does it work?’. Effectiveness says: ‘Can it be applied? Can you carry the efficacy to the people?’,” said Marcel Tanner, an epidemiologist and president of Switzerland’s Academies of Arts and Sciences.

In the real world, a vaccine’s effectiveness can be influenced by multiple, unpredictable factors including, for example: the rate of spread of a virus; how many, or few, people adhere to the optimum dosing schedule and timetable; how individuals’ immune systems respond; whether the vaccine was stored at the correct temperature; whether people know, or don’t know, if they’ve been exposed before.

Generally, a vaccine’s real-world effectiveness tends to be slightly lower than its efficacy.

WILL THESE VACCINES STOP THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?

Experts say this is unlikely. More realistic, they say, is that we will have to live alongside the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Evidence so far suggests that COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca will help stop people developing the disease. Only AstraZeneca’s data, so far, shows signs that its shot may also help prevent transmission of the virus.

“Protection against illness has a value for an individual,” said Penny Ward,” a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London. She added, however, that vaccines that do not prevent transmission will not halt the pandemic.

“Until the vaccination and other measures result in the virus being close to elimination in any particular country, and worldwide, there will still be a need for distancing, masks and hand washing to reduce transmission further than will be achieved by the vaccine alone,” said Stephen Evans, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“(A) vaccine is no good until people are vaccinated, and even then, it will not result in a situation where all other protective measures can be immediately abandoned.”


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5 day nationwide polio vaccination campaign kicked off on Monday

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According to the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, as many as 39 million children under the age of 5 years will be administered anti-polio vaccine drops across the country during the campaign that will continue until December 04.

Dr Safdar Rana, the head of the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) of the Pakistan Polio Eradication Programme, said a total of 285,000 polio teams will take part in the campaign.

In all, 9 million children will be vaccinated against the crippling disease in Sindh, 20 million in Punjab, 2.5 million in Balochistan, 6.5 million in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 240,000 in Gilgit Baltistan, 360,000 in Islamabad, and 660,000 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

Dr Safdar appealed to religious scholars of all schools of thought to play their role in making the drive a success. A total of 81 cases of poliovirus have been reported this year thus far, he said. Of them, 23 were reported from Balochistan, 22 from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 22 from Sindh, and 14 from Punjab.


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WHO says ‘will do everything’ to discover origin of Covid-19

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The World Health Organization insisted Monday it would do everything possible to find the animal origins of Covid-19.

“We want to know the origin and we will do everything to know the origin,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, urging critics who have accused the agency of handing the reins of the probe to China to stop “politicising” the issue.

The World Health Organization chief also voiced deep concern over a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases and deaths in Brazil in recent weeks.

“I think Brazil has to be very, very serious,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, after fresh cases in the country jumped from around 10,000 per day in early November to more than 50,000, and as the daily death rate shot up nearly ninefold in a week.


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COVID-19: Pakistan records 2,458 new cases and 67 deaths in last 24 hrs

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Pakistan has recorded fresh 2,458 COVID-19 cases and 67 deaths due to the virus in the last 24 hours,  reported on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours, 40 more people succumbed to the disease, taking the death toll to 8,091. 1,863 patients have recovered from the virus during the last 24 hours and 2,165 patients are in critical condition.

The positivity rate of COVID-19 cases reaches up to 5.9 per cent during 24 hours. The total count of active cases increased up to 49,105.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), with fresh inclusion of the infections in the country the national tally of cases now currently stands at 400,482.

A total of 40,969 tests were conducted across the country during this period. 343,286 people have recovered from the deadly disease while 5,549,779 samples have been tested thus far.


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Govt okays procurement of Covid-19 vaccine

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The federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan has approved funds to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine.

The cabinet meeting chaired by PM Imran Khan here in Islamabad approved $150mn to procure an anti-Covid vaccine. The health workers and people above 60 years of age will get the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the first stage.

Briefing media about the decisions taken in the federal cabinet meeting regarding the anti-Covid vaccines, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said that the cabinet has approved funds for the advance purchases of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Frontline workers will be given first doses of coronavirus vaccine in the first stage,” said SAPM Faisal, adding that elderly people will be vaccinated in the second stage while the common public will receive the first dose of vaccine in the third stage whenever it becomes available.

The government hopes to procure Covid-19 vaccine in the first quarter of 2021, SAPMDr Faisal Sultan told the media.

He further said that govt the cabinet meeting has approved a major reduction in prices of Remdesivir injection used to treat COVID-19 patients. “Govt has fixed price up to Rs5000 for a Remdesivir injection” he added. Earlier, the federal cabinet had fixed its price up to Rs10,873 on June 16.

Last week, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) had approved technical supplementary grant for the advance purchases of COVID-19 vaccines.

Faisal Sultan said the Standard Operating Procedures designed by the NCOC need to be followed indiscriminately by all sections of society.

The federal cabinet also approved an extension in service of the executive director of the National Institute of Health. The cabinet okays privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and plan for a golden handshake to the employees of the state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills.

The meeting was briefed over Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, Ravi Urban Development and Bundal Island project.

 


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Indonesia receives first COVID-19 vaccine

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Indonesia received its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from China on Sunday, President Joko Widodo said, as the government prepares a mass inoculation programme.

Jokowi, as the president is widely known, said in an online briefing that the Southeast Asian country received 1.2 million doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech, a vaccine Indonesia has been testing since August.

He added that the government plans to receive another 1.8 million doses in early January.

Late-stage trials of the Sinovac vaccine are also under way in Brazil and Turkey, with interim results on efficiency from Brazil expected by mid-December.

Indonesia is also expected this month to receive shipments of raw materials to produce 15 million doses and materials for 30 million doses next month, the president said.

The vaccine still needs to be evaluated by the country’s food and drug agency (BPOM) while his administration continues to prepare for distributing the vaccine across the vast archipelago of 270 million people, Jokowi said.

“We have been preparing for months through simulations in several provinces and I am sure that once it is decided that we can begin the vaccination, everything will be ready,” he said.

Indonesia’s daily number of coronavirus infections have accelerated in recent weeks, with total confirmed cases reaching 575,796 on Sunday with 17,740 deaths, the highest in Southeast Asia.


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Coronavirus: UK govt green lights Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use

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The United Kingdom became the first country in the world on Wednesday to approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with the vaccine expecting to be rolled for use from next week.

According to British newspaper Guardian, the vaccine has been approved for emergency use by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA).

The publication reported that the first dose of the vaccine may arrive in the United Kingdom in the coming days. It added that the Boris Johnson led government has brought 40 million doses of the vaccine, which has 95% efficacy in its final trials.

“Today’s emergency use authorisation in the UK marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19. This authorisation is a goal we have been working toward since we first declared that science will win, and we applaud the MHRA for their ability to conduct a careful assessment and take timely action to help protect the people of the UK,” CEO of Pfizer Albert Bourla was quoted by Guardian.

“As we anticipate further authorisations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world. With thousands of people becoming infected, every day matters in the collective race to end this devastating pandemic.”

According to the BBC, Pfizer-BioNTech was among a group of companies that had managed to develop a vaccine from concept to reality. The process to develop it took only 10 months.

The channel reported that the group that is most likely too receive the vaccine first are people at highest risk.

The BBC said that a provisional priority list drawn up by experts had identified care home residents and staff, followed by people over 80 and other health and social care workers as top priority.

The channel reported that the these groups may receive the first stocks of the vaccine before Christmas.

The vaccine has to be administered in two injections, 21 days apart, with the second dose being a booster.

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine over 90% effective, says manufacturer

Last month, large-scale trials of a coronavirus vaccine candidate produced by Pfizer/BioNTech revealed that it is 90% effective, said the manufacturer in a statement.

The study showed that people who received two doses as part of the trial saw 90% fewer symptomatic cases of COVID-19 than participants who were given a placebo.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr Albert Bourla, the Pfizer chairman and chief executive.

The study focused on 94 participants out of a total number of 43,000 people. These participants were offered the two-dose vaccine and 28 days after they received their first inoculation, remained protected.

“To me, this is the best possible outcome,” Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive of BioNTech told the Financial Times.

Pfizer expects to produce 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by 2021.

The company referred to the development as a “critical milestone in our vaccine development” adding that the welcome news came at a time when hospitals were being filled to their maximum capacity and economies were struggling to remain open.

Pfizer said that the vaccine’s Phase 3 trial began this year on July 27 and has involved 43,538 participants in total out of which 38,955 have received a second dose of the coronavirus vaccine as of November 8, 2020.

 


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